Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now (#182) -- Plotter or Pantser?

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I guess before I answer that question, I should first define both terms.

PLOTTER: one who creates plots and plot documents and writes according to them.

PANTSER: one who lets the plot develop naturally and flies by the proverbial seat of his or her pants as he or she writes

No, not THAT kind of plot.
To be fair and honest, I'm pretty sure I'm a "both-er." In other words, I work from a plot outline (a fairly elaborate one when I'm writing a comic book script, for example) but allow the story to flow naturally to alter or add to or strengthen the plot that has previously been written as a guideline.

I used to be a strict pantser, not really plotting anything but a rough kernel of the story ahead of time and them hanging on for dear life as I left the story to empty itself onto the page. However, as I began to pick up writing gigs in which I had to write for space or fit a pre-arranged page count, I learned all too quickly the benefits of being able to write a full plot outline (or even document of paragraphs and such).

These fleshed-out plots allowed me to divide scenes into word counts to fit my goal. They allowed me to jump ahead is a section bogged me down. And they helped me communicate with my editor to make sure we both understood the direction and distance a story was going to run -- either a marathon or a sprint.

Having admitted all this, I feel I must add that if I'm just writing for myself, to try to pitch a completed story to a market and I don't have a preexisting contract to deliver within a certain word count, I still prefer to pants the writing process. But the professional writer inside me has had to learn to work in both realms in order to make the paychecks happen more frequently.